Art Market

The Art Institute of Chicago acquired two paintings by the Surrealist Alice Rahon.

Justin Kamp
Oct 13, 2020 8:30PM, via Gallery Wendi Norris

Alice Rahon, Peau de Soleil, 1944. Art Institute of Chicago, Mary and Leigh Block Endowment Fund. Courtesy Gallery Wendi Norris.

The Art Institute of Chicago acquired two paintings by the late French-Mexican Surrealist Alice Rahon. Peau de soleil (1944) and Self-Portrait and Autobiography (1948) are representative of Rahon’s style, combining pared-down figuration and materials including sand, string, and pulverized volcanic rock. The works will enter the museum’s modern art collection, joining the ranks of a number of Rahon’s contemporaries including Joan Miró, Paul Klee, Yves Tanguy, and Pablo Picasso.

Rahon, who was born in France in 1904, first rose to prominence as a poet. While living in Paris during the 1920s, she became acquainted with a number of Surrealist artists, including Miró, Man Ray, André Breton, and Wolfgang Paalen, whom she married. Rahon turned to painting after meeting Frida Kahlo in Paris, who encouraged her to move to Mexico. After her arrival in Mexico City, Rahon met members of the local Surrealist scene, including Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo. Under their influence, as well as that of Miró, Klee, and the ancient cave paintings at Altamira, Rahon began to create her symbol-heavy paintings, often incorporating found objects such as feathers and leaves into her textured, scraped-off canvases.

Alice Rahon, Self–Portrait and Autobiography, 1948. Art Institute of Chicago, Wirt D. Walker Endowment, Major Acquisitions Centennial, Luella Thomas, Samuel A. Marx, Simeon B. Williams Endowment, and Maurice D. Gelleher funds. Courtesy Gallery Wendi Norris.

Rahon’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City and the Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis, among others. San Francisco’s Gallery Wendi Norris, who began representing Rahon’s estate in August, will put on a solo exhibition of her work in winter of 2021, the artist’s first solo gallery show since 1965. The exhibition will be preceded by the publication of Alice Rahon, the artist’s first English-language monograph, which will be published in January of 2021.

Rahon’s growing institutional recognition has been accompanied by rising market interest. Inquiries on her works on Artsy have jumped more than seven-fold thus far in 2020 compared to all of 2019. And in June, Sotheby’s set a new auction record for her work, when Los Cuatro Hijos Del Arco Iris (1960) sold for $512,000, more than its high estimate of $180,000.

Further Reading: The Market for Female Surrealists Has Finally Reached a Tipping Point

Justin Kamp